Have you ever got surprised by the customs or daily habits you saw in a foreign country? I still remember my astonishment to: drinking tea on a hot day in Tunisia, having ice-creams served in bread for breakfast in Sicily or not locking the door when leaving house in Sweden. I am a great fan of learning new usages from our closer and further neighbours, because why not borrow some of them and experience something different (possibly better)?
Well, probably not all of the newly discovered practices will turn practical or safe in your own country… But at least some might entertain you a great deal! That’s what happened to me in the Dominican Republic. These 10 things surprised me the most!
1. No-front-plate cars
At first I couldn’t figure out what made the cars look so different. Unknown brands? Colours? Excessive dirt? None of these. The cars were simply missing an important visual element at the front – they looked empty with no license plate attached! Not to mention, I’ve always been told that ”unknown” cars most probably belong to thieves or criminals…
2. No toilet paper flushing allowed
Yes, you quickly have to learn how not to flush toilet paper after using. You have to throw it to a bin. It’s a real challenge to change your lifelong habit in one day, good exercise for brain, though!
3. Barehead motorcyclists
That is definitely a habit I wouldn’t recommend borrowing. No matter the generation, helmets simply seem to be out of fashion. A truly terrifying view for someone who’s always been thaught to keep the seat belt fasten even when the car’s not in motion. Surprisingly enough, helmets gain popularity on rainy days (easier than carrying an umbrella when steering).
4. 24h working hours
Flat battery on Sunday morning? No problem – someone will surely fix it for you within a couple of hours. There’s no time to be wasted if there’s work to be done! Of course I am fully aware that such tendency has its huge drawbacks, too, as everybody deserves to take a rest from time to time, on the other hand allowing for too much siesta – as often seen in other places – can make one’s life really complicated. Balance is the key.
5. ”Normal” hair social movements
Where ”normal” means ”different than African-American-textured”. Could you ever imagine that the debate around accepting one’s natural hair is something as common as discussing the weather, sports or politics? There are opponents and proponents, but even more interestingly social movements encouraging females to accept what Mother Nature has endowed them with. Intriguing!
6. Short summer days
Summer season (for me as a European) has always been about long days and never-ending bright evenings spent outside the house. You can’t imagine how awkward it felt to experience sunny Caribbean days ending at 7.00 pm! One can get really confused by the sudden darkness, so typical for short winter days in Europe, in the middle of the summer.
7. Bags of… plastic bags
Belgium doesn’t really let you buy one-off supermarket bags anymore, but in the Dominican Republic you are virtually flooded with them! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the grocery items being packed separately, in two plastic bags each (just in case a bunch of bananas proves too heavy). A real nightmare for eco-friendly visitors (myself included).
8. Drive-through banking
Note: I might not be aware of such smart solutions already in common use elsewhere. This was the first time I saw a drive-through banking system, inclusive of a pressurised tube money deposit, video customer service and automated cash withdrawals. Only a coffee machine was missing!
9. Everything’s fried
…or extremely sweet. Not a perfect place for diet-obsessed people, unless they are ready to say no to Dominican delicacies. This can be quite a challenge, though (in 99% cases ”fried” equals ”super tasty”).
10. Pretty cigarettes packaging
I had already forgotten how pretty a package of cigarettes can look like without the terrifying images with black lungs or throat cancer warning the customers against the harmful consequences of smoking. I almost took the Dominican cigarettes for chewing gums! Be aware of their plain labels, they can seem really innocent…
What have surprised you during your last travel? Comments are very welcome!